Drivers in the bi-county area should be aware that some changes have taken place in the way the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) plans for snow removal.
According to Mike Middleton, District 7's maintenance engineer, the recent restructuring of MoDOT offices and resources has benefitted his department.
"We're sitting on nearly 300 trucks that can be used in any area of the region for snow removal and spreading aggregate," Middleton said. "Instead of crews working out of several smaller locations, the drivers and resources are centrally located for deployment to wherever they are needed."
Middleton said that the northern part of the region typically sees a higher volume of snow and a greater need for trucks and the salt and rock used on area roadways.
"We have enough staff and contract drivers to keep the trucks staffed 24 hours a day," Middleton said. "And we have a good amount of resources available."
That includes 30,000 tons, or about $2 million, of aggregate in the district.
"We're sitting good right now," Middleton said. "It's been a mild winter so far, and we have only used about 400 tons.
"We only have to worry about winter weather for another 50 to 60 days," he continued. "Along in March, it starts melting off fast."
The mild winter has a side benefit most motorists don't consider.
"Every dollar I can save by not having to buy salt can be used next year on roads and equipment," Middleton said.
"No one is going to wake up after a snow storm and get to work without problems," Middleton said. "That's not realistic. But we allocate our resources to routes with the most amount of traffic. We will hit every road at least once per shift, or once every 24 hours. Some of the lower traffic areas will see aggregate on hills, curves and at intersections. Main thoroughfares will be cleared and continuously maintained for the duration of the storm."
For area motorists, that may mean a significant adjustment to their driving habits.
Even a light precipitation can freeze and cause rural roadways, bridge floors, overpasses and intersections to become slick and dangerous. This is especially true of black ice, which forms when there is a slight freezing drizzle or when melted snow refreezes. Bridges and overpasses generally experience freezing conditions before other streets or roadways.
MoDOT recommends that drivers follow these suggestions when driving in inclement weather:
* Always wear a seat belt.
* Use common sense, adjust vehicle speed to suit driving conditions.
* Use windshield wipers and turn headlights on if weather conditions warrant their use.
* Double the amount of distance you would normally keep between yourself and the next car.
* Use gentle pressure on the accelerator when starting or on wet, slick surfaces.
* Give snowplows plenty of room and do not pass them when conditions are poor.
* Watch for other drivers having problems with road conditions.
* Don't pass other vehicles near or on bridges.
* Keep the vehicle's fuel tank at least half full during inclement weather.
* And remember that driving conditions become most hazardous when temperatures are near 32 degrees.
Before traveling, updated road conditions may be viewed on MoDOT's traveler information map at www.modot.org. Information on road conditions and closures may also be obtained by calling 888-Ask-MoDOT (888-275-6636) toll-free.